Jonathan Toews & His 10.5 Million Smackaroos

Tim from Massachusetts asks

Connected to the overpaying theory…do you think the Blackhawks made a mistake giving Tazer 10.5 million? There is absolutely no doubt to his leadership ability, but he has never cracked the top 10 in scoring, and now appears to be on a steady decline in productivity. Say what you want about not having the winger he is comfortable with, but look at Kaner, he has played with a constant revolving door of centerman and opposite side wingers and he has always produced on the score sheet…and he still will this year without the Breadman. I originally thought BOTH of their contracts were too generous…from the 5.5 they had up to 10.5 is/was crazy. Somehow, the Hawks brass should have got them for a max of 8 each. All of this talk of a “hometown” discount by many other players who want their team to be successful…it never seemed to enter those 2 guys minds…if it did, we never would have seen the departure of so many of the supportive troops who are now playing huge roles elsewhere. What if they had taken the 8 million I proposed…it is possible that the Hawks would now have both Panarin and Saad. To continue on, why oh why did they give Seabs his huge contract? Any player approaching 30 is going to slow down…to give him 7 years at that cap figure makes we wonder if the marbles in Bowman’s head have stopped rolling around. There’s a few more million the Hawks could use now.

With the aforementioned questions in mind, do you think Bowman has done a good job when it comes to resigning players???

Toews has never been a stalwart point producer. He’s amassed 70-points once and 30-goals twice. When looking at WAR metrics that try to take into account a players overall game, Toews graded out as one of the best forwards in the league during Chicago’s latest cup era. From the 2009-10 season to 2014-15, only Steven Stamkos and Sidney Crosby have added more wins to their team than Jonathan Toews.

Toews was third among forwards in WAR during the time period according to Corsica.

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Via Corsica.Hockey

The past two seasons are a different story.

3rd in the league, hell Toews hasn’t been the 3rd best forward on his team according to WAR. In the 2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons combined, Toews is fifth among Blackhawks forwards in WAR. That’s a pretty big drop-off.

Coming into the extension talks, Toews was every bit one of the best forwards in the league. He was never as good as Crosby, but it could be said back then that he may have been the 2nd best center in the league. Now that his performance level isn’t 2nd best center in the league, it’s easier to criticize the deal. However, that great of player at the time, mid-20’s in age, so many cups, it would be foolish to pass on him.

But we need to talk about the $10.5 Million.

You already know about the talent, the winning, the cups. The one thing that we need to remember is the escalating salary cap. Around the time of the extension, the salary cap was rising substantially from season-to-season. The summer the extension was signed, that cap rose by 9%. This is a very important thing to remember as agents would bring this to the negotiating table.

Let’s say I’m Toews’ agent. The cap’s rising year-by-year and my client is about to sign a 8-year extension. With how much the cap is rising, in a certain way, the dollar amount I get in year one isn’t the same as year eight. Technically, the cap hit is $10,500,000 every season, but what if in year eight the NHL salary cap is around $140 million? Then that $10.5M contract in year-8 is comparable to a $5M contract in year one in terms of percentage of the total cap hit taken up by Jonathan Toews.

I made a couple of tables to help illustrate this.

Screen Shot 2017-10-16 at 17.16.48 PM.png

Here we see how much the cap has risen year-by-year. The cap rose by about $5M, stagnated a bit because of the lockout, then rose another $5M quickly right as the extension was being signed. With the cap constantly rising, a $10.5M contract was quickly going to become equivalent to that of a $7-8M contract nowadays. It was like the roaring 20’s and the salary cap was the stock market. Rising and rising and it was never going to stop.

Until it did.

We know the salary cap doesn’t rise that quickly any more and growth has somewhat stagnated, but lets take a look at the Toews contract if the salary cap kept rising 9% each season.

Screen Shot 2017-10-16 at 17.36.38 PM.png

If the cap kept roaring upward at 9%, it would be at $89M this season and not $75M. During year-4 of the contract the cap would almost hit $100M and would be well past that in the latter stages of the deal. With the cap rising, Toews cap hit would take up less and less of a percentage of Chicago’s overall cap hit.

So if Stan Bowman comes at me with $8M, I’m creating a table like this with favorable cap inflation numbers and countering with a $12M contract because a $12M contract now will be a $8M contract in a couple of seasons in terms of percentage of the cap taken up.

We often think of cap hits as just dollar amounts. With the cap ceiling constantly changing, it’s important to recognize cap hits as a percentage of the total cap. A $5M contract signed five years ago is not the same as a $5M contract signed today as the cap ceiling is different. For example, year 1 of the Toews contract was 2015-16. The salary cap was $71.4M. ($10.5M Toews Cap Hit / $71.4M NHL Cap = 15%) Toews’ $10.5M contract used up 15% of the total cap available to Chicago.

15% of todays $75,000,000 cap is $11,250,000. This means that someone would need sign an extension with a cap hit of $11.25M today to get the same deal as Toews signed.

Panarin and Saad?

If Toews and Kane each had only $8M contracts, that frees up $5M in cap space. Add in the fact that Chicago never acquires Artem Anisimov’s $3.3M contract and that is $8.3M in free space. Chicago would have been able to extend Saad and sign Panarin to a 2-year-entry level deal.

The problem is to later extend Panarin, that means both get a combined $12M. Anisimov signed with CHI for $4.5M plus the $5M freed up from Toews and Kane leaves Chicago $2.5M short of being able to re-sign Panarin. Of Course with Hossa on LTIR now, it would have been doable. Or Chicago would have been able to extend Panarin easily but would have had to trade Richard Panik.

So in the end, if you put Toews/Kane on $8M contracts, the Blackhawks could hypothetically have Panarin and Saad on the team this season,but at the cost of Anisimov and Panik.

Bowman overall?

Yeah, I imagine he’s done a good job. Sure the Seabrook contract was atrocious, and Richard Panik was blown away by his initial offer (so they could have gotten him for a little cheaper probably), but overall it’s been good. Bryan Bickell looked like a really bad contract, but the guy had a serious condition. Bowman can’t predict that.

My biggest quirks with the team are Seabrook, Anisimov, and Murphy. I’d try to move them, but the first two have no move clauses and the last one hasn’t even played 10 games with the organization.


  1. Does it really happen? Players agent comes to Bowman office and says salary cap will raise every year by 9%! It sounds like that agent is smoking weed every day. That’s bullshit to predict something like that. In general nice article.


  2. Since i work in the world of finance, I have to say your math is dead on…the prediction factor is what is off. In using the rule of 72 and your 9% accelerator, the salary cap would double in 8 years…which your math clearly shows. It just won’t happen. With that being the “fact”, Toews’ and perhaps Kane’s contracts are burdens now let alone in year 8. Still I will concede that Seabrook’s hit will be the worst of all…absolutely no way anyone will take him off our hands…absolutely no way he will wave the no movement clause…I’m back to Bowman giving too much on the flip side of a hometown discount…he doesn’t want to see any of the Hawks core end up elsewhere…too bad Hammer didn’t have a no movement clause…


    1. I agree, it was simply an extreme/exaggerated example just to get people to contemplate the uncertainty of the cap’s future at the time and how an agent might utilize that uncertainty to squeeze more money out of Bowman.


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